All-day kindergarten is on state budget chopping block

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Lawmakers see as big expense
azfamily.com

PHOENIX - Arizona's facing its biggest budget deficit in history and now there are accusations that lawmakers are now trying to balance the state budget on the backs of kindergartners and their parents.

One plan calls for the elimination of full day kindergarten.

It's enough to prompt school leaders from around the state to plan a rally here at the capitol this Sunday.

They want to call attention to the impact the budget cuts would have on students, parents, and teachers.

Arizona schools started all-day kindergarten in 2006.

Parents say it gives their children the jumpstart they need.

"That way they understand when they get into first second third it's a fullday thing, it's just like a job," Dennis Karle said.

Not to mention the advantages of kindergarten over daycare.

Full-day kindergarten allows parents like Janel Lopez to work full-time.

"I don't have to worry about having someone pick her up, or get out of work early and bring her to daycare," she said.

Lopez hopes all-day kindergarten will be around when her three-year-old is ready.

Some state lawmakers say it's too expensive, costing on average $100 million a year.

They're looking to cut $300 million from Arizona schools and full-day kindergarten is on the chopping block.

"I think it'd be the worst idea to cut kindergarten," PTO president Tina Hird said. "It takes them back to learning nothing."

Hird is PTO president at Mesa's Robson Elementary School and a teacher's assistant.

"I worked in the classroom when it was just a half-day, and we never made it to math, so our kids weren't learning math like they are now," she said.

For now, parents and teachers are left waiting for the legislature's decision, hoping their jobs and classes survive.

One alternative is to have parents pay to send their kids to all-day kindergarten.

Legislators hope to have a budget in place by the end of the month.